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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07SANJOSE998 2007-05-25 20:46:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Cable title:  

COSTA RICA APPROVES NEXT ROUND OF US SHIP VISITS;

Tags:   MARR PREL SNAR PGOV PINR CS 
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VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSJ #0998/01 1452046
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 252046Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN JOSE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8110
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHMFISS/DIRJIATF SOUTH
RUWDQAA/CCGDELEVEN ALAMEDA CA
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
					  UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000998 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/PPC, INR/LP AND P/M;
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR PREL SNAR PGOV PINR CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA APPROVES NEXT ROUND OF US SHIP VISITS;
APPROVAL PERIOD EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER 2007




1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On May 17, the National Assembly approved
the next round of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy ship visits, as
required under the Costa Rican constitution. The approval
period runs from May 1 to November 30, 2007, an extension
from the quarterly approvals of the past. Any U.S. vessel
not on the approved list (of 14 USCG cutters and four USN
frigates, see para 7) will require stand alone legislative
approval to visit Costa Rica. The extended approvals were
requested by the GOCR and capped our behind-the-scenes
lobbying campaign over the past six months. These votes clear
the way for ship visits until after the CAFTA referendum,
which is good news by itself, and may lead to even less
stringent visit approval requirements in the future. US
Coast Guard and Navy participation remains essential to the
success of the Joint Maritime Agreement with Costa Rica. END
SUMMARY.



2. (U) On May 17, the National Assembly approved the next
round of U.S. Coast Guard and Navy ship visits, as required
under the Costa Rican constitution. Proponents in the
legislature (such as Libertarian Evita Arguedes) were more
active than in similar debates in the past, stressing the
counternarcotics successes achieved under the Joint Maritime
Agreement and the direct cost benefit to ports of call from
U.S. ship visits. Minister of Public Security Fernando
Berrocal's cover letter to the Assembly, which cited the
joint counternarcotics successes since the start of the Arias
administration, was also helpful. Berrocal explicitly asked
that the Assembly approve visits over the next six months,
instead of the next three, which had been past practice.



3. (U) The request for a longer approval period did not spark
unusual polemics. Debate proceeded along familiar lines,
with routine votes taking place once opponents (such as
Frente Amplio's Jose Merino) made their usual lengthy
speeches opposing visits by U.S. "warships" and questioning
whether the narcotics flow through the region was really a
Costa Rican concern. The final vote count was 42-3 in favor
of the Coast Guard visits; 30-16 in favor of the Navy visits.
(The Navy visit list always draws a few more no votes.) The
new approval period will last until November 30, 2007. There
was little media coverage of the issue.



4. (SBU) This vote caps our behind-the-scenes lobbying
campaign over the past six months, which was highlighted by
Berrocal and the Ambassador hosting key legislators (and
media) aboard the USCGC Rush in Golfito in January. The
legislators themselves were tired of the hours spent
listening to the usual opponents make the usual arguments
while other key bills were pending. Other navies' warships,
with only tangential impact on the drug trade or immigration
smuggling, usually receive pro forma approval. Proponents
thus asked why then did US visits, with obvious and tangible
benefits, have to be debated at length? Berrocal himself
advocated extending the approval period to six months, after
being advised by his staff that quarterly visit requests were
not required. (NOTE: The quarterly schedule apparently
became accepted practice in the past, although it is not
specified in the official, gazetted version of the Joint
Maritime Agreement or its implementing protocol.)



5. (SBU) The GOCR may make the visit request procedure even
more flexible in the future. Arguedes and her staff are
contemplating simple legislation which would "clarify" how
the relevant portion of the 1949 constitution (Article 121,
Section 5) would be applied in light of "modern"
circumstances (the joint efforts against drugs, the long
history of peaceful U.S. ship visits, etc.).



6. (SBU) COMMENT: These votes clear the way for ship visits
until after the CAFTA referendum, which is good news by
itself; if the new visit window leads to even less stringent
visit approval requirements in the future, even better. (No
one seems to have noticed that the period approved -- May
1-November 30, 2007 -- is actually seven months.) There are
some technicalities we will have to manage, however.
Although the Assembly approved visits through November, the
ships listed are only those which might call from May-July.
Berrocal did not want to wait for a full six-month list of
U.S. vessels which might put into Costa Rican ports or
operate in Costa Rican waters. Any U.S. vessel not on the
approved list (of 14 USCG cutters and four USN frigates, see
below) will require stand alone legislative approval to visit
Costa Rica. Therefore, the more we can draw from the list of
U.S. ships approved to visit Costa Rica in the May 17 vote,

the better. END COMMENT.



7. (U) For reference, the following are the U.S. ships
approved by the National Assembly to visit Costa Rica or to
operate in/near Costa Rican waters May 1-November 30, 2007:

USCG USN

For port visits (9) For port
visits (4):

USCGC Munro USS
Rodney M. Davis
USCGC Morgenthau USS McCluskey
USCGC Hamilton USS Halyburton
USCGC Harriet Lane USS
Klakring
USCGC Gallatin
USCGC Dallas
USCGC Mohawk
USCGC Legare
USCGC Zephyr

For area operations (5):

USCGC Northland
USCGC Thetis
USCGC Tahoma
USCGC Escanaba
USCGC Forward
WEITZENKORN